On page 304 of her exhaustive survey of psychoactive drugs, Suzi Gage writes: “I would not encourage anyone to take any of the substances mentioned here.” Which, following what I’ve written already, invites the question: who is this book aimed at? True, Gage deals with legal as well as illegal drugs and for the most part – saving her rather coy little autobiographical asides – this is a competent survey. But people who take drugs tend to know a lot about them – that’s what a drug culture is: a vector carrying information not usually, by definition, disseminated in the media. I reached page 50 of Say Why to Drugs before I learned anything new – and this was only that the somniferous herb valerian is not in any way related to the addictive benzodiazepine, Valium.
Elsewhere, Gage – was she driven by nominative determinism to take up her calling as a drugs specialist? (gage being American slang for marijuana) – is less impressive, not seeming to be aware that cocaine is soluble (for injecting purposes) in water or that cannabis is a psychedelic. In common with many drugs specialists, she wants the latter to be in a class of its own, but this reflects its ubiquity rather than its pharmacology.